A beautiful prison

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Cinema With “Lamhaa” director Rahul Dholakia ventures into the valley of intrigue. ZIYA US SALAM

Story of Kashmir Bipasha Basu ; (Below) director Rahul Dholakia
Story of Kashmir Bipasha Basu ; (Below) director Rahul Dholakia

N ot too long ago he came up with a film that looked at death as an instrument of politics. The National Award-winning “Parzania” was a cry of anguish for those who had been robbed of everything but life in the Gujarat genocide. And Rahul Dholakia, then just a film old – an insufferable fantasy called “Kehta Hai Dil Bar Bar” – became a respected name in the film industry. He showed remarkable integrity as well as audacity in film a subject where making capital out of a tragedy would have been very tempting for many a filmmaker.

“Parzania” came some half a decade ago. Then came Rahul's bout of illness. Then the controversy over his next, “Lamhaa”, and Rahul was in danger of slipping away from filmgoers' memory, a memory that is often like a sieve, retaining little, starting afresh every Friday.

Now, he is back in the reckoning. “Lamhaa” that tale of an Army major and his Muslim wife set in Kashmir is making more than mere ripples in the Arabian Sea. So what does he bring to the table for the discerning audiences when he comes up with a movie all his own?

“I think it is important to tell good stories and I also think the audience wants to hear good stories. The story of Kashmir is fascinating. It is complex, confusing, thrilling and touching. That's the way I have tried to treat ‘Lamhaa' as well. To be able to tell this effectively and truthfully, research was necessary, and I have over 150 interviews with a cross section of Kashmir society to back my screenplay. Interesting anecdotes and alarming information from soldiers, militants, hardliners, liberals, students, freedom fighters…you name it.”

That is fine but what many a year our filmmakers are heading back to Kashmir. What is it that Kashmir offers a filmmaker that more are again being made against its background?

“It's a fascinating place. A mystery, aura and an element of uncertainty that the place has, intrigues filmmakers. For instance the reason I got sucked into the valley was a statement made by some students: ‘We live in a beautiful Prison'. When I went into the valley, I saw and understood what these kids meant. I find these paradoxes fascinating- and Kashmir has many of them. The pain exists on the side of the soldiers too. For instance, I visited an army base in Dras. This is the second coldest place in the world and our troops barely have proper heating facilities and they are willing to die for the country!”

Projection of valley

But has not the projection of Kashmir changed over the years, from the days of “Kashmir ki Kali” to “Yahaan”, and now “Lamhaa”. Is cinema merely being driven by political climate? Or actually making a statement by again making a film in the State in the first place?

“I agree. From the beauty and peace in the valley, we are now into terrorism! Again a paradox: The perception of a Kashmiri has changed. Once a sufi, now a militant? (It's a line in my song). Cinema reflects the climate, but I have tried to go beyond that. One needs to understand the situation from the Kashmiri viewpoint too, without getting preachy and documentary like. So though the film is set in Kashmir, it's a thriller. For me making a film on Kashmir about Kashmiris is a statement in itself. The world needs to know what happens here.”

That is for a dash of reality. Then why cast somebody like Bipasha Basu, the girl who is part of not so distilled male fantasies? Has she somehow been able to dispel such doubts with her work?

“Absolutely. From first frame onwards. The character needed an actress who could handle internal as well as external conflict. One that had the agility of a tigress yet be emotionally sensitive. Bipasha in person has that personality, and she has extended herself into the character of Aziza. Extremely difficult role, made even more challenging by the shooting environment. Incredible performance!”

Rahul started his career with a washout starring Kim Sharma and Jimmy Shergill, then showed other nuances with Naseer-Sarika in “Parzania”. Now does “Lamhaa” with Sanjay-Bipasha actually bring Rahul to the level he would want to be, neither too cliche-worn, nor too serious, just right for the intelligent audience to appreciate?

“No. Each film experience makes me want to experiment a bit more. ‘Lamhaa' is not perfect nor is it a film with which can say I have arrived! It's a very interesting film, shot and treated differently. Very tough to shoot, and a complex film to write but still not perfect. Audiences may get a bit confused initially, but then the story on Kashmir is confusing! However with ‘Lamhaa', I have attempted at trying to blend the ingredients I think are commercial, intelligent and yet entertaining.”

That is trademark honesty from the man who is unaffected by his success, unfazed by adversity. And is still looking for that touch of perfect we all strive for, yet very few attain. Here is waiting for that Lamhaa.

The story of Kashmir is fascinating. It is complex, confusing, thrilling and touching. Rahul Dholakia



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